Equality New Mexico: A Conversation with Program Manager John Flores

The Balloon Fiesta is arguably the most iconic yearly event in New Mexico and there is no better way to celebrate the festivities then to attend Equality New Mexico at the Balloon Fiesta. It makes for a special night when you can attend one of the visually stunning balloon night glows, while contributing to one of our state’s most important equality advocacy organizations. GaySantaFe recently spoke with program manager John Flores about the upcoming event, the mission of Equality New Mexico and the future of LGBT equality in New Mexico.

What is the Equality NM at the Balloon Fiesta?
It is our biggest annual fundraiser. We wanted to start using the natural beauty that we have here in Albuquerque, along with the Balloon Fiesta. Being a native from Albuquerque I’ve attended the Balloon Fiesta in a number of ways and this is by far the best way to experience it. Last year I wasn’t part of organizing the event but I did attend with my boyfriend and we had a really wonderful time and this year is going to be even bigger because we have a bigger space this year.

Albuquerque Balloon FiestaWhere is it located on Balloon Fiesta Park?
It is at the Balloon museum so it overlooks the field at night and it’s the last night of the balloon glow. It will be a nice balloon glow, weather permitting. They always do a laser show right after that. It’s really amazing to watch the lasers moving to the DJ playing music in background.

Then the biggest and best fireworks show that they have for the Balloon Fiesta is the night of the event. We have a space that is both indoors and out, along with a patio and grass area next to it. All the guests will be able to go inside or outside and enjoy the view from either vantage point. All this along with heavy hors d’oeuvres that can replace dinner.

Wow, this sounds like it’s going to be a large event this year.
Yeah, absolutely. We are hoping to get up to 200 people. We plan to sell out again like we did last year.

This is going to be a great benefit for Equality New Mexico. Could you speak on the organization and what you do for those that may be new to New Mexico?
We are the state’s LGBT community advocacy organization. We’ve been around since 1993. Beyond marriage equality, we have been working on a slew of issues that we started working on amiss the marriage equality movement and have continued to do since. Our biggest program is the New Mexico Safe Schools Initiative. We’re updating bullying prevention in all of the school districts state wide. We will be introducing some legislation in the upcoming legislative session in January to assist in that. We also do a lot of trans awareness and inclusion work and we will be introducing some legislation to help the trans community make it safer and easier for them to change their name legally and their gender markers on their birth certificate.

So Equality NM is pretty busy once the legislative session starts.
ll-pcil_400x400Absolutely. That’s actually a great way for people in Santa Fe to get involved with the work we do. Every year we have “Equality Day at the Legislator” where we will actually train people on our legislative agenda and the type of issues we are for and against. What legislation we are introducing. Then we assign people to different groups and different legislators then they go to the Roundhouse to speak to legislators on the issues that are important to us. It gives volunteers a chance to lobby for equality directly.

We live in a welcoming and open community in Santa Fe but obviously as a state we have a lot to work on.
It’s nice that we have safe havens like Santa Fe, Albuquerque, parts of Las Cruces and even some small towns like Silver City that have a thriving LGBT community. They [Silver City] actually just had their first Pride Festival. But we still have a lot of communities that aren’t as welcoming. There are still people scared to come out or they move away from the towns they grew up just so they can be safe. We are always looking as an organization to get into and change the small communities around the state by a number of different programs.

You can help Equality New Mexico continue their efforts by attending the event at the Balloon Fiesta. It will held Friday Oct. 8th at 6pm. Tickets range from $25-100. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Mark Banham

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